Snowbird Savvy: 8 Expert Tips to Help You Save on Your Next Trip
Many cruise lines are now offering free room upgrades, drink packages, dining credits and no tips. Photo: Oversnap/Getty Images
Given the nearly two-year lockdown we’ve been through, Canadians’ desire for travel appears stronger than ever. A recent Conference Board of Canada study found that 81 per cent are yearning for the open road.
But many Canadians also have had their pocketbooks slammed by the pandemic, putting that needed trip further out of reach. Here, we take a look at eight expert tips on how to save money on your next holiday, and where you might consider going.
Black Friday/Cyber Monday Deals
This might be the best week of the year for booking a trip, given the wide array of Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals. Intrepid Travel, for example, is offering up to 25 per cent off select trips worldwide, for excursions between Dec. 1, 2021 and March 31, 2022. Sea Dream Yacht Club, which offers small ship sailing in the Caribbean and Europe, and features outstanding food and service, is offering US$1,000 in savings on some of their 2022 trips. Travel expert Barry Choi, who writes at MoneyWeHave.com, says he’s seeing hotel discounts of up to 60 per cent. He also notes that many hotels are now offering exclusive deals and packages for customers who book direct.
Using an Online Travel Agency
Expedia and other online travel agencies offer great bundling services for airfare, hotels and rental cars combined, and those bundles can save you money. Bundling your travel bookings usually results in significant savings, which could include flights, hotels and car rentals. According to Expedia’s internal data, Canadian travellers have saved up to 10 per cent on average when they bundled flights and hotels in one transaction. On Expedia and Hotels.com, book refundable stays by filtering for “free cancellation.”
When to Travel
Big city hotels that make their money from business travellers often have better deals on the weekend. That may have changed now that biz travel is down, but it’s still worth checking weekend rates for places like New York, Toronto or Chicago.
Travelling in the off-season also is a great way to save. Hawaii is super popular in summer with families and in winter with folks escaping the cold. But prices tend to drop considerably in September and October, before the big holidays, and also between Easter and summer. Europe is wildly popular in summer, but if you’re into museums and restaurants more than beaches, try a trip in winter or early spring.
When to Book
Expedia recommends travellers buy plane tickets weeks in advance. The best time to book a domestic flight is between 28 and 38 days before departure. International flights, on the other hand, should be booked three to four months in advance if you’re looking to get the best rate possible.
The ideal day to book a flight is Sunday, according to a travel hacks report from Expedia and the Airlines Reporting Corporation. For domestic flights this can save travellers around 15 per cent, and for international flights the savings are almost 10 per cent.
The best day to start a domestic trip is Friday versus Monday, where travellers can save around 25 per cent. For international flights, start the trip on a Saturday, not on a Tuesday, to save almost 10 per cent.
Expedia says domestic travellers can save up to 10 per cent if they book a flight in January. International travellers can save nearly 20 per cent if they book a flight in August.
Should I Use a Travel Agent?
Travel agents are especially valuable these days, when COVID-19 rules change at the drop of a chapeau. Agents are paid to know the rules, and they can help with refunds should that become necessary. Most agents make their money off commissions and don’t charge customers for their services, so why not let the experts do the work for you? Choi says travel agents can often recommend a specific itinerary or attractions based on what you’re interested in. They can even design custom packages.
Many cruise lines are now offering free room upgrades, drink packages, dining credits and no tips. These offers are listed right on their websites, so browse the different companies to see if anything appeals to you. January, which has traditionally been known as Wave season in the industry, is typically the best month for cruise deals.
Try Money-Saving Apps
Choi says loyalty programs such as Aeroplan and Marriott Bonvoy can save you a lot if you collect points. Hotels.com also gives you one night free after booking 10 nights. All of these programs/sites have apps. He also likes the app Hotel Tonight for last-minute bookings and to Google flights for searching airfares.
Popular Trips for 2022
Big city hotels have suffered the most, and some travellers still seem leery. I’m expecting some pretty good deals for downtown hotels in Toronto, Vancouver, New York, San Francisco and other big cities in 2022, especially in the winter months.
Choi says Egypt and Jordan immediately come to mind for him. “They have always been bargain destinations with so many great things to see. A lot of people get turned off by these countries due to their location, but they’re very safe. Parts of Florida can also be relatively inexpensive.”
Studies show Canadians are looking at pretty familiar overseas destinations for 2022, including Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Las Vegas, Hawaii, Jamaica and Florida.